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How Automation will impact the way we work?

I happened to interview IAS officer Aditya Ranjan, who turned his passion for Robotics into reality by creating the COVID Cobot in his district Chaibasa to carry out food and medicine delivery services to COVID suspected or positive patients.

It amazed me to see the work he did and I was intrigued to learn more. “The bot performs basic delivery services with ease,” he said thereby reducing risk of constantly coming in human contact with other members.

“What is it that the bot cannot do then?” I enquired.

“Well it cannot be empathetic. It cannot think of the next best possible creative solution. It cannot perform critical thinking activities. But it helps me and my team members perform these activities instead,” he gushed.

 

“Well it cannot think like me” (Image by Robotjames-Pond)

 

According to the Pew Research Center Survey on ‘Automation in Daily Life’, a large percentage of the US adult population said, that jobs like nursing or teaching would be difficult to automate.

Pew Research (Image Courtesy NASSCOM report)

So what are the cues for the IT sector or tech-businesses you ask?

We’re at the cusp of industrial transformation.

Some call it the new AD or After Disruption (given the COVID Crisis). According to a November 2019 report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, it is predicted that automation would delete 800 million human jobs by 2035.1

Should automation be considered as a threat to job functions then?

Contrary to popular belief that automation will replace manufacturing jobs in India, the manufacturing sector is expected to touch US$ 3.5 billion in 2020 creating 130 million jobs2.

Automation will thus serve as means of modernizing processes and free up time for factory workers so they may fill meaningful roles.

McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce— would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence.

Automation will help humans fill up better roles (Image by RobotFranck)

 

How organizations and employees can pivot at large would depend on their reskilling approach.

Some aspects will be key:

  • A creative approach to reskill staff/employees.
    For example, Amazon offers a 16-week certification program allowing employees to learn a new skill and access higher wages.
  • Automating low-end jobs with repetitive tasks like Bajaj Auto adopting cobots back in the day in their Chakan plant to perform tasks like material handling and bolt tightening3.
  • Making reskilling fun and incentivising it in order to embrace automation.
  • Launching Pilot Programs and partnering with relevant organizations for the practical training of using automation tools.
  • Educating employees about how automation can help them take more meaningful roles and scale up in the career ladder. For example, Shimmy, a Brooklyn based fashion tech company introduced AI across several aspects of the organization. The workforce was made to understand that training to adopt technology would help them move to deeper and more technical roles as opposed to being sewing machine operators, for instance. Most testers completed the training within 40 minutes to seek better opportunities4.
  • Taking a people first approach. While automation will aid scale and effortless functioning, taking a people-centric approach and adapting to the change together with the team will lead to better results.

 

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, the reality is that automation is more likely to create opportunities as opposed to threats.

What do you think?

References:

  1. COVID-19 – Tipping point for automation. (2020, April 15). NASSCOM Community |The Official Community of Indian IT Industry. https://community.nasscom.in/communities/covid-19/automation-impact-on-jobs-assessing-possibilities-of-greater-automation-and-more-jobs.html
  2. Accelerating automation in industries post-COVID-19. (n.d.). Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency | Invest India. https://www.investindia.gov.in/team-india-blogs/accelerating-automation-industries-post-covid-19
  3. Ramesh, M. (2020, May 14). Cobots expected to play increasing role in post-covid-19 automation. @businessline. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/cobots-expected-to-play-increasing-role-in-post-covid-19-automation/article31579582.ece#
  4. In the age of automation, technology will be essential to reskilling the workforce. (n.d.). World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/how-tech-can-lead-reskilling-in-the-age-of-automation/

 

 

 

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